Narrow midsection of last provides security, but may mean difficult fit
This is a very quick and agile shoe with sensitive trail feel (but adequate cushioning) and great traction, even over wet rocks and roots. It’s best for neutral runners with a heel or mid-foot strike, and transitions well from smooth trails to some more technical routes. The unusual “hourglass” shape will mean a difficult fit (even painful in my case) for many runners with the mid-foot too narrow and the toe box too wide and sloppy. The no-tie, one-pull lacing system is super quick and easy, but it doesn’t allow for localized tightening, and the lace pocket is difficult to access when tied.
The Salomon XR Mission is designed to be a hybrid road-trail running shoe. It is medium-cushioned and best for mild heel or mid-foot strikers who run mainly on smooth paths.
Ride The shoes had a quick feel and solid energy transfer at the end of the stride – perhaps enhanced by “tendons” in the outsole that Salomon says improve the recoil force (I felt this clearly while flexing them by hand, but it’s difficult to say they work underfoot).
The cushioning – 20mm heel to 10mm toe – was soft and ample in mid and forefoot, while remaining light and flexible. But for serious heel-strikers it may not be sufficient: Especially after it began to compact near the end of testing, I definitely found a mid-foot strike considerably less jarring.
Comfort The soft, supple interior is smooth over the foot, with no rubbing or abrasiveness. The shoe flexes quite naturally for a fluid running transition. However, the shape of the upper make for a highly unusual fit on the inside. I found where the shoe narrows dramatically – under the front of the arch in my case – there was a pronounced pressure and considerable discomfort, especially when flexing. I could loosen the lacing to alleviate it slightly, but it also meant a sloppier fit.
Stability Along with the hourglass shape, the outsole is extra-wide, extending far beyond the outline of the upper. This pontoon-like platform makes a huge landing surface, which floats over uneven terrain and loose rocks with impressive stability. And the heel cup was quite secure and cozy, provided solid lateral stability on any terrain. However the wide toebox – usually something we welcome –is downright cavernous, causing some forefoot sloppiness, especially on side hills or when making quick turns.
Traction The increased surface area from the wide outsole also seems to improve the traction – these shoes offered outstanding grip over most surfaces, even the notoriously muddy, wet roots in the Pacific Northwest. Small, well-spaced lugs kept mud buildup to a minimum, and scores of smaller lugs in various directions seemed to grab anything and hold on tightly from heel to toe. Only deep mud resulted in any significant slippage.
Drainage The wide platform even seemed to displace water in puddles with such a wide splash that less water seemed to get on the shoes’ uppers, keeping my feet drier. Unfortunately when water did get in these shoes, drainage was poor. Non-mesh, rubbery inserts by the sides of the metatarsals (which Salomon claims improve fit) seem to trap in water at this key drainage area, so water had less room to escape.